Replace That Air Guitar With The Real Thing, Thanks To 6 Local Music Teachers

Steven-Jon and Tyler of Ditmas Music Lessons. (Photo by Michael Yu)
Steven-Jon and Tyler of Ditmas Music Lessons. (Photo by Michael Yu)

Looking for an alternative to the “inequitable and underfunded” arts education offered in New York City public schools? (It’s been “weakened by a decade of disinvestment and disincentives” according to a 2014 report by the City Comptroller)

Several local schools provide outstanding opportunities for students seeking musical instruction, like Afro Latin Jazz at P.S. 217 and an annual music festival at P.S. 130. Even Brooklyn College is teaming up with a non-profit digital music program for local kids. But what about adult music education?

With the multitude of musicians living in Ditmas Park, it’s not hard to find flexible private lesson options for kids, and also adults who believe it’s never too late to start learning — or want to refresh musical skills that have grown rusty with age.

But with so many choices, sorting through them can be as challenging as picking a cell phone plan. Here is a good place to start — ask yourself these questions to know exactly what you’re looking for in a music teacher:

  • Would you rather learn at home, or travel for lessons?
  • Do you want to learn piano, guitar, or maybe something more adventurous?
  • Do you prefer to pay as you go, or commit to a series of lessons upfront (often at a discounted price per lesson)?

Once you’ve answered those questions, check out our comprehensive guide to 6 amazing teachers who are close to home, helping you fulfill your lifelong dream while supporting local musicians and businesses.

1. Learn Guitar, Bass, Mandolin, Banjo and Ukulele for kids and adults at Ditmas Park Guitar

Gerald Edward teaches at Ditmas Park Guitar. (Photo by Gary Westerhoff)
Gerald Edward teaches at Ditmas Park Guitar. (Photo by Gary Westerhoff)

“Learning a piece of music is similar to putting together a puzzle; it can enhance critical thinking and problem solving skills,” said Gerald Edward, owner of Ditmas Park Guitar. “Students also learn the value of dedication to a craft through patience and practice.”

Ditmas Park Guitar is a great place for children (ages 4 and up) and adults to learn electric or acoustic guitar, bass guitar, mandolin, banjo and ukulele. Students can choose to take lessons at owner Gerald Edward’s home studio, or he can travels to you for in-home instruction. Ditmas Park Guitar held its first recital for students in June and has another scheduled for January. Edward is also preparing a song book for young beginner students (ages 4 to 8) which will be available this fall.

Edward has been teaching guitar since he was in high school; he graduated from the Berklee College of Music and began performing professionally in 2005 while also teaching at the Westerhoff School of Music and Art and St. Paul’s School.

For adults, he’s found that learning to play an instrument can fulfill long-deferred dreams. “I’ve had adult students who always loved music, but for whatever reason, had a missed connection with an instrument during their childhood” said Edward. “They’ve been air-guitaring riffs for years, and it’s great to see them pick up a guitar and play for real!”

Pricing and Contact: Ditmas Park Guitar offers individual lessons or guitar workshops for 4 to 8 students, and band coaching for kids. Basic rates are $45 for a 30-minute lesson and $80 for a 60-minute lesson, with discounts on packages of 4, 8 or 12 weekly lessons online. To get started, email ditmasparkguitar@gmail.com with two preferred days and times to schedule an appointment.

2. Interdisciplinary Piano for youngsters at Brownstone Music Lessons

Brett from Brownstone Music. (Photo by Stella Magloire)
Brett from Brownstone Music. (Photo by Stella Magloire)

Brett Crudgington is the owner of Brownstone Music Lessons, where he teaches piano, mostly to students between 5 and 10 years old, but with a few teens and adults as well. He travels to the homes of about two-thirds of his students; others come for lessons in his apartment to play his grand piano.

Crudgington is a composer and performer as well as an educator. “I’ve been doing this a long time, love it,” he said about teaching “I’m trying to bridge fields like psychoanalysis, design, and bio-mechanics as fluidly into the lessons as I can to make the entire experience as enriching for the student as possible.”

Crudgington’s students perform at recitals every six months at Alden Moves Dance Studio. Studying music in childhood, he said, “builds life skills like persistence, structure, attention to detail, kinesthetic skills, and ability to connect multiple concepts that transfer to other disciplines.”

He’s found that adults who sign up for classes “regret quitting at a young age (often they had a bad experience), or they love a melody or piece and really want to play it, or simply to cross it off their bucket list.”

Pricing and Contact: Brownstone’s lessons are matched to the public school calendar; he’s currently accepting students for the semester that will start along with the new school year. Tuition, which is due by the date of the first lesson, is $856 per semester for 30-minute lessons and $1,034 for 45-minute lessons. (Adult students can book monthly lesson packages.) Contact Crudgington through his website to arrange two trial lessons.

3. Piano and Violin at Musication

Jeremy Zmuda with piano student. (Photo by Matt Carr)
Jeremy Zmuda with piano student. (Photo by Matt Carr)

Musication offers piano and violin lessons for children ages 3 and up, both onsite and in students’ homes.

“One-on-one lessons that cater to each individual child” and run on a semester basis, said founder Jeremy Zmuda, an award-winning children’s music composer. “The most important thing that our program emphasizes is making music fun, so children want to learn, and want to play,” said Zmuda.

Along with Zmuda, teachers include Canadian multi-instrumentalist and composer Lauren Falls and Eva Novoa, a jazz pianist with classical training.

“There are SO many benefits for children when playing and studying music,” Zmuda said “from enhanced brain development, to improving language and literacy skills, to helping social and emotional growth.”

Pricing and Contact: Rates and schedules vary according to the length of sessions and the age of students, and longer lessons (40-60 minutes) can be split between siblings. Visit their website lesson page for more details.

4. Electronic music, trumpet and composition at Ditmas Music Lessons

Digital workstation at Ditmas Music Lessons (Photo by Michael Yu)
Digital workstation at Ditmas Music Lessons (Photo by Michael Yu)

If you’re looking for something a little different, Ditmas Music Lessons offers electronic music, trumpet and composition along with piano lessons. Billing themselves as “Professional Musicians, Passionate Teachers,” Tyler and Steven-Jon draw on their experience as educators and performers to serve their students.

The school’s philosophy reflects the belief that music instruction for children does more than teach musical skills like listening, coordination, sensitivity. Music education develops abstract thinking skills that apply to all walks of life.

Tyler, an award-winning composer with a degree in music education, teaches piano for beginners and adults, composition, songwriting, electronic production, and recording. Steven-Jon, who has played trumpet in orchestras, big bands, ensembles and churches, offers instruction for aspiring brass players. Both teachers organize student recitals each semester to give students performance experience.

Tyler and Steven-Jon teach many adult students. “Some come to us with fond memories from childhood lessons,” they said. “For many it is about providing a space to stretch out and be creative like a mental yoga class.”

Pricing and Contact: Both teachers travel to students’ home for individual lessons. 30-minute lessons are $40 and a full hour is $70. The teachers are flexible and work to accommodate students’ schedules, but recommend meeting weekly, at the same time each week to establish momentum and understanding. Online lessons via Skype and Facetime are also available. Email ditmasmusiclessons@gmail.com or call (970) 405-3153

5. Pre-K and special needs options for Voice, Drums; and Brass, Wind and String instruments at Kathryn Brickell Music

Kathryn Brickell {Photo by Gary Berger)
Kathryn Brickell {Photo by Gary Berger)

Students throughout the city find lessons through Kathryn Brickell Music, which recruits professionally trained teachers in voice, drums, brass, wind and strings and matches them with people in their neighborhoods looking for individual instruction. All teachers have, at minimum, a BA in music, but many have additional education and experience.

Brickell is a multi-instrumentalist with more than 25 years experience in music education. “In the course of my music studies, I encountered many, many teachers, good, mediocre, and bad,” she said. “It was this experience that led me to develop such a profound desire to offer quality lessons.”

Kathryn Brickell Music also offers special programs for Pre-K children and students with special needs. Each year in June, the school sponsors a recital at the Adelphi University Performing Arts Center.

Pricing and Contact: Ditmas Park students can take lessons on-site at East 17 Street or have an instructor visit their home. Rates begin at $35 minutes for a half-hour lesson.  Call Kathryn Brickell Music at (800) 285-5732 to talk with a client manager who will help find a teacher best-suited for each student’s goals, stylistic interests and personality, or visit the website to get started.

6. Group and ensemble guitar classes at EzraGuitar

ezra-guitar-kids-702x395-2
Students at Ezra Guitar. (Photo by Sarah Fabbricatore-Alwa)

“It takes a lot of guts to jump in and learn a new language and a new way to express yourself as an adult,” said founder and executive director Leilah Ezra.

A classical guitar conservatory on Coney Island Avenue, EzraGuitar teaches children (starting at age 4) and adults in groups and individually. With classes in the studio and in private homes, the school enrolls most students in programs built around the school year and also offers 10-lesson packages for adults.

EzraGuitar is a unique method of study developed by founder Maol Ezra and delivered by an international faculty recruited from classical conservatories throughout the world. They use classical technique to teach all styles, including rock, jazz and middle eastern. Students perform in at least two solo recitals annually,

This year, the school will also offer some evening percussion workshops for teens and adults, and private percussion lessons.

“Studying music is an opportunity to learn how to express one’s self and communicate to the world through a medium other than word,” said Ezra. “It develops sensitivity to sound and our environment, to working with others. It builds confidence and great abandonment! And it’s just plain fun!”

Pricing and Contact: Rates for private lessons range from $50 to $85 (depending on length and location) and group and ensemble classes from $30 to $40. Register for lessons online or call (718) 424-2103 for a free consultation. EzraGuitar is hosting an open house on September 11 from 10am to 6pm at their storefront on Coney Island Avenue, serving snacks and offering a free trial lesson.

Did we miss your favorite local music teacher — one who is currently accepting new students? Leave info in the comments below!

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